Mother Tells Story of How 13 Year Old Daughter Takes Refuge in Transgender Identity and How Mother H
This story was also recorded for The Witness Podcast Episode 15.
Going to share a long personal story, in hopes that it might help some of you. As background, like many of your daughters, mine never showed any indication of wanting to be a 'he' in her entire life. All of the common markers of being vulnerable, in hindsight, were in place: her dad and I divorced (both of us have since remarried, and the kids love both step parents), she is highly intelligent, she isn't sporty and had felt bad about herself because of it, she had early puberty, she had a friend who moved to away (we live in an expat country) who got sucked into this there (who she was banned from speaking to but continued to repeatedly, this poor girl is a bit of a mess and her parents are dealing with it the best they know how to), she likes anime and role play, she got into discord because of anime during lockdown (which took a terrible turn, and at that point I had no idea about it), she felt isolated during online covid learning and spent more time online (despite our concerns), she had access to more and more girls shifting into trans and encouraging her to do so, and she wanted to label her teen ups and downs as something (common for young girls these days), so “transgender” felt like her safe harbor.
Just under a year ago, her father and I got a scripted coming out letter, she had just turned 13. She wanted to be called John (name changed for privacy) and buy binders, and be called they not she. Her friends were all on board.
Then started my deep dive, reading tons of research, videos, FB groups, speaking with other parents. I think this is the crucial point in a parent's way of handling this, one which is often the point we miss, and where we can hit the point of no return.
I joined one FB group which had thousands of members, and posted a very heartfelt post, typed through floods of tears. I was questioning the movement, was highlighting the pharmaceutical involvement and what was clearly indoctrination (found while searching through her laptop), I said that in my deepest intuition, this was not the right path for my daughter, and that I couldn't understand how so many people were “drinking the koolaid.” With the exception of a few very kind women who spoke with me about their stories privately, to say I was slaughtered was an understatement. I think I broke the group's record for number of comments on my post. I was kind, and many came to my defense, but the overwhelming majority told me I was a horrible mother, that I wasn't listening to my daughter, that she would kill herself if I didn't agree to these changes. I left the group.
What followed was months of deep diving, and a lot of family talks, and my daughter continued to access info despite being told she couldn't. My goal was, and we are nearly there, to get her to see for herself that she was being manipulated, that women have fought for centuries for equality, that women are bad asses who need to love themselves for being women, and that changing your body doesn't deal with any underlying issues around being a vulnerable teen in an insanely digital age.
The other common theme amongst trans parents is that most are open minded, like we are, so the parental boundaries that need to be set in dealing with cases like this are necessarily extreme, and often in opposition to our parenting styles. Yet after reading Irreversible Damage, my conviction in what we needed to do became stronger.
Her phone was taken, I had a computer expert come and make all sorts of changes to her access on her laptop. I regularly check her laptop. She watched Dysphoria with me. We talked a LOT, and she sees a counselor who specializes in teen girls, to boost her self esteem and to get her out of this. She has said she liked the attention this gave her amongst her peers.
In the maelstrom of it, I was accused of being a transphobe, and she lied a lot about what she was getting up to, over and over, which is why we ultimately had to change settings on her laptop.
I told her that if anyone in our family or friends group thought she was really a he, someone would step up in support of her. We had many conversations where I told her she might not always like me, but that she's always trusted me as a mother, and that she needed to be open to doing so again.
She no longer identifies as trans, and her friends no longer call her Theo. She is bi, and I'm ok with that. Funny enough, I also think someday she will be with a man, but I don't care one way or another, as long as she feels whole.
While I think we are 80% out of the woods, I don't dare take my foot off the pedal. I told her I would take her out of school and move to textbook learning if that's what it took to get her away from being brainwashed, and I still stand by that. I have written to the school about it, who are still in denial with the issue, yet to their credit have stepped up around the dangers of predators and bad influences online.
- do what it takes, as early as possible, to break the connection. This might involve banning friendships (we've had to with a few friends), changing schools, and taking devices
- have your daughters watch Dysphoric with you, and to read about the other side of the story
- seek sympathetic professional help, as there is a root cause, and as parents are often, in our daughters' minds, unsympathetic noise
- think of it as a problem that you won't quit working on until you've solved it, even though it might take unbelievable time and energy
- divert attention into hobbies, family time, sports, anything non digital
- when this all first started we used the 'when you're 18 you can make whatever choices you want' line, but we don't any more, as that still validates the notion that she is trans
- spend as much time as you can with your daughter, even if they say no. Just be together, reconnect in whatever way you can, so they remember that you're on their side, always have been, always will be
My goal is to get my daughter to understand, for herself, how dangerous this is for her and others like her. She can now say, of her own accord, that she was indoctrinated. She can now say that she thinks any young girl with issues should have at least one year of counseling before she can pursue the path of testosterone. I am grateful that her eyes have slowly opened on her own, but I appreciate that she is still a vulnerable teen, so I am extremely proactive in making sure she's fully out of the woods.
My hope, which I know is a long shot, is that she will use that same strong leadership quality that she's always had, to speak out against this path. I work hard on the angle of how amazing a gift it is to be a woman, and constantly reinforce that ups and downs are normal, and that she doesn't need to be fixed or become someone else, she just needs to trust that life has good days and bad days, and that she just needs to step onto the path of self love.
Ironically, I'm a healer and a coach, and while she does do some sessions with me, I know that in a case like this, where kids are told that their own parents are against them, I needed the help of someone outside of this.
This issue breaks my heart, for all young girls. We are planning to leave our expat country next year, returning home. Yet I won't leave until I know 100% that my daughter won't get sucked in again, and I have a strong feeling that I will end up becoming very vocal about these issues, wherever we end up. I have a feeling that my healing practice might involve this very issue, with other teen girls.